NEW YORK - A special government team has seized more than $20 million worth of fake NFL sports gear produced overseas and intended for illegal sale in the U.S. during Super Bowl week.
Sports jerseys, hats, T-shirts, jackets and other memorabilia are trademarked. Selling imported, counterfeit items is criminal and has significant impacts on the American economy, according to federal officials.
"Our agents are committed to combating the criminal enterprises selling counterfeit products which undermine our economy, and take jobs away from Americans,” said John Sandweg, acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “No good comes from counterfeiting American products regardless of whether they are jerseys, airbags or pharmaceuticals.”
The initiative, called “Operation Team Player,” targets international shipments of fake merchandise intended for sale at American stores, flea markets, street vendors and online. Team Player is a collaborative effort by the NFL, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement departments.
State and local police departments have assisted in the investigation which includes the arrest of 50 people so far.
“We are working hard to prevent fans from being scammed by criminals seeking to profit from the public's passion for the NFL, their home teams and the Super Bowl,” said Anastasia Danias, NFL Senior Vice President.
Websites selling counterfeit merchandise are also being targeted by the IPR Center. More than 150 operating websites have been seized by law enforcement as well as nearly 3,000 domain names. Other organizations have joined the effort, including the U.S. Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center and Mexico’s Servicio de Administracion Tributaria.
“Counterfeit goods cost the global economy an estimated $250 billion each year,” said David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center. “More than 1.2 million jobs in New Jersey, 900,000 jobs in Colorado and 1.2 million in the state of Washington depend on IP intensive industries, meaning counterfeits have a direct impact on the economy in the home states of both teams and the host of the Super Bowl.”